RARA-AVIS: Straw Dogs/movies

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 21 Jan 2002

>>When I saw this film [straw dogs] at D.C.'s Cinema theater (Wisconsin
>> >Avenue) in 1972, the packed house was alternately fired-up and >stunned.
>>When's the last time you've experienced that? Twenty years >of progress
>>and we >get TITANIC and PEARL HARBOR.
>George Pelecanos

and Marianne wrote:
>Cheer up, George - we always had MGM musicals, too. And last year, >among
>others, I saw SEXY BEAST and damnit I'm still asleep Terence >Stamp's
>little visit to California

I loved "The Limey" and I don't usually like Soderbergh films. I also thought "Memento" and "In the Bedroom" (though the ending fell flat for me) and for that matter quite a few non-noir films like "The Anniersary Party,"
"Gosford Park," "Ali" and "Lord of the Rings" were damn good this year. Last year had "Traffic" and . . . well, it had "Traffic," and you can go back to 1999 and find "American Beauty," "Boys Don't Cry," "The Insider,"
"Election," "Fight Club," "Three Kings" and some I'm sure I'm forgetting. Were these all great films? No, and I don't even think some of them (i.e.,
"Fight Club" and "Traffic" were very good. But they are, for the most part, serious films (as opposed to lightweight, not as opposed to comedies) that address serious subjects.

But are they the kind of films that leave audiences "alternately fired up and stunned"? A good question, and I don't really know the answer except that the issue may be as much the audience as the films. "Traffic" infuriated me and it seemed like it was meant to be the kind of film to stir people up, but I'd talk to people who had seen it about some of the most basic issues in the film and get a lot of "Gee, I never thought about it that way. Wasn't the camera work good?" "Fight Club" is the recent film I can think of that comes closest to "firing up" audiences pro and con the way the Peckinpach film did. My initial reaction to it was somewhat Kaelian - I was grumbling about "that fascist movie" for quite a while, though in the course of some thought and discussion, my opinion has moderated somewhat
(I'm now willing to admit Fincher didn't have a fascist agenda and mostly call it "that stupid movie"). So a lot of people were arguing about the movie but I still ran into people who reacted with "Don't get worked up about it, it's just a movie" or else "Well, it's so refreshing to see a movie with any ideas at all. . .[that, apparently, we're not supposed to worry our pretty heads about whether they actually make any sense].

I also got in some serious discussions about "American Beauty" (which fits at least a loose definition of noir, in feeling if not in color scheme. . .]
  But it's my general impression that audiences overall aren't interested in really being engaged or being made to think by a film (and probably not just film, as books and nearly any other art form are considerably more marginal to mainstream "culture," which we hear about a lot and don't really seem to have that much of, though we seem to have a lot of awards shows. Maybe there's some sort of law of inverse proportion at work here?)

hope I haven't gotten too far afield here -


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